Not for once did this season fail to produce a thriller. We witnessed the joy of victory and the agony of defeat. And then, there were moments that certainly didn’t bode well with the fans. Not just those present in the stadium, but for everyone watching from around the world.
Here’s a rundown of my top three controversial moments.
3. Fernando Verdasco angrily berates young ball boy
In the semifinals of the Shenzhen Open against Yoshihito Nishioka in September, Fernando Verdasco of Spain reacted angrily to a ball boy after he felt the young boy was too slow in handing him his towel.
— doublefault28 (@doublefault28) September 29, 2018
The Spaniard came under heavy fire for that reaction, with fans ripping into the Spanish left-hander on social media.
And yes, he lost the match.
I'm glad you lost @FerVerdasco
— S (@fitryeuptae) September 29, 2018
This should be a code violation.
— Jonnie Burke (@jonnieburke) September 29, 2018
All players should have respect for all volunteers and officials
— David Robinson (@davidro17282291) September 29, 2018
What a p***k. He should be fined for this appalling arrogance.
— Noel O Keeffe (@keeffe_noel) September 29, 2018
12 year olds should not be holding sweaty towels for players. Tennis needs to evolve from this nonsensical behaviour – a change is required
— SportWizz (@SportWizz) September 29, 2018
And it appears it wasn’t the first time the Spaniard put up such a behaviour.
Were you abused as a child #FernandoVerdasco? Only that will explain why you take your anger out on young children. Making their tennis memories miserable.
— Sean Callaghan (@keanespirit) September 29, 2018
Swiss great, Roger Federer weighed in on the issue, saying standards that are set in tennis must extend to ball kids.
“The ball kids are really important to us because they are also maybe the future of our game, like I was,’ said the 20-time Grand Slam champion, who was once a ball boy.
“You don’t want to have them leaving with feeling, oh my God, I was not appreciated or I was not liked or it was a horrible thing.”
Some saw it as mere frustration given the intensity of the match. However you see it, that was no small talking point.
2. Alexander Zverev booed by O2 crowd in London
How does it feel to advance to the championship match of the Nitto ATP Finals event and get booed by the crowd? Ask Germany’s Alexander Zverev.
The 21-year-old defeated Roger Federer in an epic semis to reach the final of the ATP Finals in London, after having a row with a ball boy in the second set tiebreaker, a moment that many thought cost Federer the set and eventually, the match.
At 4-3 in the second set tiebreaker, Zverev stopped playing midway through the point when he noticed a ball boy had dropped a ball at the back of the court, an incident that neither Federer nor the umpire noticed.
The O2 crowd reacted in disgust, but because it is in the rules, the umpire agreed with the decision and replayed the point.
Zverev would send down an ace to clinch the point and go on to take the match. What followed was quite demoralizing.
Drama, drama everywhere 😳
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) November 17, 2018
After the win, Zverev was left apologizing to both the crowd and Federer, who didn’t make a fuss about the situation.
But tournament director, Adam Hogg had none of it and lambasted the crowd on Twitter in what he termed an astonishingly disappointing reaction.
Astonishingly disappointing reaction from the crowd.
Huge credit to Sascha Zverev for reaching his first final here at the #NittoATPFinals.
And well done @Annabel_Croft on handling the situation with aplomb.
— Adam Hogg (@acphogg) November 17, 2018
Zverev would go on to beat Novak Djokovic in the final and lift the title.
1. Serena Williams goes berserk in US Open final
Nothing tops this!
What was meant to be a thrilling clash turned into a jaw-dropping show of wrathfulness. So much that nearly four months later, opinions on what transpired are still being dished out.
Serena Williams had advanced to the final of the US Open, her second Grand Slam final appearance after returning from maternity leave. The great American faced 20-year-old Naomi Osaka, a first-time Grand Slam finalist.
Osaka had brilliantly closed out the first set after surprisingly suppressing Williams with her impeccable play. But tension began to brew in the second game of the second set when the umpire gave a code violation after William’s coach appeared to be coaching the American, which is against the rules in Grand Slams. Williams then went 3-1 up, but after losing a serve, smashed her racket in frustration. That earned her a second code violation, leading to a point penalty.
Williams lost it.
“I didn’t get coaching!” she yelled at Ramos. “I don’t cheat! You need to make an announcement. I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter! You owe me an apology. You owe me an apology.”
The crowd was already getting frenzy at this point. Osaka, though, remained unmoved, holding and then consolidating with a break to go 4-3 up. Williams would go on to continue her dialogue with the umpire and in the process, call him a thief. That earned her a game penalty, sending Osaka 5-3 up.
And all hell broke loose!
“Are you kidding me?” Williams yelled. “Because I called you a thief?” She then called for the supervisor, Brian Earley, as the stadium erupted in boos. Williams, who was already in tears, went on: “This is not fair. This is not fair. This has happened to me so many times. It is not fair. It’s really not. There are lot of men out here who have said a lot worse than that. I called him a thief because he stole a point from me. That is not right, and you know it. I know you can’t change it. I get the rules, but I’m just saying it’s not right.”
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) September 9, 2018
Osaka went on to win the match, but the boos and jeers continued, denting a great moment in the Japanese’s career.
The incident brought about a sexism row in sports. Virtually everyone in the tennis world had their say on the issue, with some taking sides with Serena and others slating her for taking it too far. One debate that has continued to this day.